To a new era and back again

I returned from Baku on Monday after almost a week in the capitol.  It’s always strange to go from a relatively modern city, to the small town of Ujar, but like always, once I got  back, it was right as rain.

I was in Baku for the Peace Corps’ Counterpart Conference.  It was a chance for TEFL volunteers to come to Baku with an English teacher they co-teach with, and go through a two day seminar about team teaching, modern teaching methods, and the role of the volunteer as a development worker.  I brought my counterpart, Rasmiyya, with me, and I think she really enjoyed herself.

 A lot of the things that were discussed had already been heard by the Volunteers durin PST, but almost all of it was new for the counterparts.  I also think that it was good for them to hear it from the Azerbaijanis in our staff.  I tried explaining certain concepts to teachers here, and I think they were on board for the most part, but now it’s really been cemented.

So while there was a lot of momentum and energy built during the weekend, coming back to Ujar was a bit of a crash back to reality.  A lot of the ideas, like playing a game  to work on vocabulary, sounded great when we were talking about them with other volunteers, but we soon realized that it would be a long, difficult struggle.

A lot of these concepts are new to the students, so it’s hard for them  to understand what we’re talking about.  And even when we do explain something like ‘pair work’ to them, they don’t seem to get it right away.  Eventually they do, and it seems less and less foreign to them.  It’s important for me to remember that not only am I in the beginning of my experience, but Ujar is too.

I’m in the fifth group of PC’s Azerbaijan’s experience.  While we’re starting to shed the idea that we are the first volunteers within PC, I don’t think Azerbaijan quite understands it.  People think I’m the brother of the volunteer who returned to America after two years.  People think I’m British.  People think i get paid for this.

So while people on the street slowly learn why Americans are here, my students will hopefully start to figure out what I’m doing as well.  So maybe when a new volunteer comes to my school in 5 years, my younger students will be able to understand where they are coming from a little easier.  And maybe speak English too.

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